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Consumers want to see reviews prior to making a purchase—in fact, 72% will not take action until they’ve read what others think about their dealings with your business. Reviews are critically important even before a searcher has a chance to read them through. Google gives them great weight in local SEO rankings, to the point that it’s getting more and more difficult to be visible at all without a solid reviews strategy.

I moderated a webinar recently with local search and reviews experts Jason Brown and Marshall Nyman in which we explored the most effective ways for enterprise and multi-location brands to use their reviews at scale to drive greater local visibility, more in-store foot traffic, and higher sales.

You’ll find the full webinar video at the end of this post but first, check out these five impactful insights for a smarter, more effective reviews strategy across your brand.

1. Consumers Love Writing Reviews

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The volume of Google reviews has exploded, as you can see in this illustration of review velocity in Google between March 2017 and January 2019. Google understands the importance local reviews play in the local consumer journey and started asking for business reviews based on the in-depth search and conversion data they can see in each consumer’s history. As a result of this new effort from Google, we have seen a massive increase in the number of Google My Business reviews across verticals.  

2. When It Comes to Reviews, Recency and Response Both Matter

According to BrightLocal, 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews. Your prospective customers want to see how you react to criticism, whether you’re engaged and listening, and what kind of experience they might expect if they choose to do business with you, as well. You can instill trust in searchers with an active review management strategy that includes thoughtful, polite responses to all reviews, across locations.

In the webinar, our speakers talked through the finer points of writing winning review responses. You can watch that full discussion below, and here’s an acronym you’ll want to remember for responding to reviews:

 

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Brown also shared with us that 85% of consumers disregard local reviews more than three months old. This doesn’t make them useless—again, we know Google is considering your reviews in their rankings. But if you are just getting started at responding to reviews, it may not be worth your time to go back more than three to six months to respond to every review ever received. Get technology in place to enable you to monitor and measure reviews across the brand, and empower local managers to receive alerts and respond in a timely manner. Create a set of best practices to drive more proactive reviews management going forward.

3. Don’t Step Outside the Review Platform Guidelines

You work hard to please customers and earn great reviews. Don’t jeopardize your reviews strategy by violating review platform guidelines. We discussed Google and Yelp in particular, as they’re two of the greatest concerns for enterprise brands.

Yelp’s position on soliciting reviews is pretty clear: don’t do it. At all. Ever—in any way, shape or form. But don’t take our word for it. You can read more in “Don’t Ask For Reviews” in Yelp Support.

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Google, on the other hand, encourages businesses to “remind your customers to leave reviews” and to “Let them know it’s quick and easy to leave business reviews on mobile devices or desktop computers.” The search giant even gives businesses a way to create a link that asks their customers for a review. They just don’t want you doing shady things to get them.

4. Reviews Are a Key Aspect of Your Success in Local SEO

Google is the major force in online reviews, both for their impact on the consumer buying journey and in their impact on your brand’s local visibility. According to ReviewTrackers, 63.6% of consumers say they are likely to check reviews on Google before visiting a business—more than any other review site.

Another of their studies shows that 21% of consumers agreed that Google reviews are one of the most important factors in their search for a local business, ranking them as more influential than price estimates, proximity, and SERP.

What’s more, Google Reviews are fairly heavily weighted in the Local Pack search ranking algorithm, according to Moz:

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5. Getting Started is Easier Than You May Think.

ReviewTrackers data tells us that people who leave negative reviews aren’t just complaining needlessly; 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week. However, 63% of those who’ve left a negative review say the brand never responded.

Often, brands just aren’t sure how to manage reviews at scale without giving up complete control to local managers, which results in sporadic performance, inconsistent responses, and the loss of this important local customer data at the brand level. Multi-location enterprises need to be able to:

  • monitor reviews across locations
  • listen to customer feedback in real-time across regions in one dashboard
  • create a workflow that works, with alerts and assignments to ensure that no customer review falls through the cracks
  • sentiment analysis to identify areas of opportunity and potential service improvements
  • data-driven insights and competitive benchmarking to maximize the value of your consumer review data

Jason, Marshall, and Krystal shared more tips to help brands get started and hosted an informative Q&A session for webinar participants. You can watch the full webinar below, and get in touch with Rio SEO with any follow-up questions. We’re here to help!

Watch the on-demand webinar!